Yeates' trademark winner

MARK Yeates inspired Colchester United to victory in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, thanks to one of his trademark free-kicks at Gillingham last night.

Carl Marston

Gillingham 0 Colchester United 1

MARK Yeates inspired Colchester United to victory in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, thanks to one of his trademark free-kicks at Gillingham last night.

Yeates bamboozled the Gills defence for most of the evening, especially in the second-half, before obliging with the only goal of the game on the hour mark.

The Irishman has been the star performer during this difficult start to the season for the U's, and he is now the leading scorer with four goals - not bad for an out-and-out winger.

Gills keeper Simon Royce was left clutching at thin air as Yeates' angled free-kick, from just outside the left corner of the penalty area, fizzed into the far corner of the net.

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The Kent hosts never really looked like fashioning an equaliser during the last half-hour, as United booked their berth in the third round of this competition.

It was a repeat scoreline of their last meeting in August, when the U's again pipped Gillingham on their home turf in the Carling Cup.

When the U's reached the final of this competition (then known as the Auto Windscreens Shield) in 1996-97, they did it the hard way with three away victories in the first three rounds.

They have already claimed two scalps on the road this campaign, at Millwall and now Gillingham. In fact, their away form in general has been good this term, with five victories in eight away fixtures.

It was a particularly pleasing result for caretaker manager Kit Symons, who has now presided over two away wins and two home defeats during his brief tenure.

Dean Hammond, the U's skipper for the night, had two good chances to break the deadlock inside the first half-hour.

Hammond burst onto Steven Gillespie's through ball on 16 minutes, only to shoot straight at keeper Simon Royce. Club record signing Gillespie was enjoying only his third start in a U's shirt.

Ex-Brighton midfielder Hammond was in the spotlight again when Royce could only parry Mark Yeates' 25-yarder, but this time he headed the loose ball over the bar and onto the top of the net from eight yards out.

Yet it was Mark Cousins who was the busier of the two keepers during the first-half. The 21-year-old, who had also played in the previous round of this competition at Millwall, showed good handling to keep out a stinging free-kick from Albert Jarrett.

And Cousins produced a fine double save on the half-hour mark. He dived to his right to claw away a goal-bound drive from danger-man Jarrett, and then recovered in time to save at the feet of leading scorer Simeon Jackson, who was preparing to bury the rebound.

The Gills diminutive strike-force of Jackson and Andy Barcham were proving a handful for Matt Heath and Paul Reid, with their twists and turns.

But it was winger Nicky Southall who posed the next threat with a long-range firecracker that whistled only inches over the bar, with Cousins at full stretch.

Just before half-time, Clive Platt nodded wide from Yeates' cross. But if anything, it had been the League Two hosts who had shaded the first period.

But it was a very different story after the break. Both Gillespie and Johnnie Jackson peppered the target with early strikes before Yeates broke the deadlock with one of his trademark free-kicks.

The Dubliner was disappointed with himself for blasting a free-kick over the bar in the 56th minute, but he more than made amends just four minutes later.

David Perkins was felled on the left edge of the box by winger Nicky Southall, who was booked for the challenge. And Yeates crashed home the ensuing free-kick into the far corner of the net.

His confidence now sky-high, Yeates nearly doubled the lead in the 66th minute. This time he was set up by Platt, and was not far adrift with a sweet strike that flew across goal and wide.

The Gills exerted some pressure during the later stages, and United were indebted to a couple of timely interceptions from Reid, who cleared over his own bar on both occasions.

But Cousins was rarely troubled, and so can now boast two clean-sheets in his first two senior starts for the club.

GILLINGHAM: Royce 7, Fuller 6, King 6, Mills 7, Nutter 6, Southall 6, Bentley 7, Weston 6, JARRETT 7 (sub Richards, 81), Jackson (sub Pugh, 73) 7, Barcham (sub Murphy, 73) 6. Unused subs: Lewis, Kiely.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 7, White 8, Reid 7, Heath 7, Borrowdale 6, YEATES 9, Hammond 8, Perkins 7, Jackson 6, Platt 6, Gillespie 7 (sub Vernon, 89). Unused subs: Izzet, Baldwin, Wordsworth, Gerken.

Referee: Mr Fred Graham (Essex) 7

Attendance: 1,557.

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